Blog Authors: IBM Software Defined 2700052JD4 Virtualization+IBM 2700039S5C Nitin_Gaur 12000056JB Jean Staten Healy 2700025BBU John_Foley 0600026N82 SamVanAlstyne 110000DM6B alicia_wood 270003DW0M Virtualization combined with Integrated Service Management helps you use your resources effectively, manage your infrastructures efficiently and gain the flexibility to meet ever changing business demands. This blog is for the open exchange of ideas relating to virtualization across the entire infrastructure. Articles written by IBM's virtualization experts serve as conversation starters. Topics can range from latest technologies for server consolidation and tools for simplified systems management and monitoring to automating IT systems to respond to changing business conditions and cloud-based solutions for the "virtual" enterprise.
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Virtualization enables workload optimization by optimizing systems and system management
Optimizing workloads—to meet or exceed target service levels while using the fewest resources possible—is a major goal for the enterprise today.
However, before workloads can be optimized the systems that drive them must be optimized first. And system optimization is exceptionally hard to achieve in a conventional infrastructure, in which services are tied on a one-to-one basis with commodity hardware such as low-end x86 systems. Commonly, such an infrastructure will be idle more than 90 percent of the time—generating costs but not business value. And should more resources be required for an unexpected spike in workloads, those resources may not be available.
Virtualization represents a much better approach, through which workload resources can be shifted in real time wherever they are required, service levels can be enhanced as a result, and both idle time and overall costs can be minimized—essentially, a vision of workload optimization. But realizing this vision via a virtualized infrastructure will also typically mean moving to a new management paradigm.
A modern solution such as IBM Systems Director will be needed in order to consolidate and simplify overall management by tracking status/health levels of different servers and hosts, and by fulfilling everyday tasks such as software provisioning and problem isolation. Systems Director elegantly unifies management across multiple operating systems, IBM server groups and certain non-IBM servers—taking the focus away from the details of the technology per se and turning it toward the optimized utilization of the IT infrastructure in the pursuit of business goals.
Create and manage system pools with IBM Systems Director VMControl Enterprise Edition
Now, IBM has taken the next evolutionary step in system optimization through virtualization management.
IBM Systems Director VMControl Enterprise Edition, a plug-in extension that works within the general Systems Director environment, allows the enterprise to create virtual system pools: groups of virtualized resources (servers, storage and network). Because they can be managed as a single entity, system pools thus function as building blocks that administrators can use to optimize systems more easily, more quickly and more consistently—mitigating business risks by enhancing availability, reducing costs by better linking resource allocation to business demands and driving service levels to new heights.
To see how system pools work, begin with the fact that successful virtualization will almost always require careful management of system images. Images contain the complete software stack of operating system, middleware, applications, data and other elements required for a virtual server; IT organizations will therefore usually have many images created for many business purposes. When the number of images proliferates, management complexity scales as well, and with it, costs and risks. These challenges demand a fast, efficient and consistent solution to manage images, one designed to take advantage of best practices and yet also adjust easily to the unique demands of a particular organization’s context. They also demand a more holistic, comprehensive approach to managing the overall infrastructure, in order to reduce the number and complexity of management tools as much as possible.
VMControl Enterprise Edition, utilized within IBM Systems Director, represents just such a solution. VMControl Image Management features provide a way for managers to capture system images and store them in a library. Subsequently, they can quickly and easily be provisioned to any target virtual system, and even customized with specific elements that may be required, such as drivers or data. This approach delivers a number of significant wins: much more consistent image deployment, improved security, simplified regulation compliance, higher system availability, faster time-to-value for virtual systems and the services they support and, generally, lower costs.
Once provisioned, virtual systems can themselves be clustered and managed as a logical group—a system pool—and dynamically assigned to changing business demands in real time. This is the heart of the system pool concept: extending virtualization across host systems to render resource utilization even more fluid and cost-efficient while reducing management complexity even further. One system pool is simpler, easier and less expensive to manage than a variety of hardware hosts running a variety of virtual servers.
Get transparent updates, automated resilience and minimized downtime
System pools, as managed by IBM Systems Director VMControl, thus represent a great way to optimize systems. Because resources can be even more closely, quickly and easily paired with business demand, waste is minimized, and yet service level targets are invariably hit. The fact that multiple physical hosts are deployed in the pool, each itself running multiple virtual servers, is no longer directly relevant, and managers need only concern themselves with bigger-picture business goals and how well they are being fulfilled holistically.
Many specific benefits will accrue as well. For instance, consider the common business challenge of service outages; these might occur either on a planned basis (in order to carry out firmware or software updates) or an unplanned basis (due to catastrophic, unpredictable system failure). Both situations are substantially improved via VMControl-managed system pools.
Imagine a data center in which system pools have been deployed and in which one of the hardware hosts in a pool has failed. Because that pool can be monitored and managed as a logical whole, failure of one host does not translate into failure of the pool. An administrator can simply shift the services from the failed host (or any group of them) to other virtual systems within that pool or across pools—dramatically decreasing the negative business impact of the failure.
This approach, when combined with policy-driven management tools, can be automated as well. Should monitoring tools detect the failure, conditions of a logical policy will be fulfilled, and the policy will be executed. The service supported by the failed host will be automatically transferred to a healthy system, along with whatever necessary computational resources are required to optimize its workload. At no point will an IT team member be required to take action or even notice the existence of the problem. Overall downtime and costs dramatically fall, and workloads are fulfilled in a far more optimized fashion.
(In fact, if in this scenario, the organization wisely selects best-in-class hardware such as IBM Power Systems hosts, imminent physical failure can be anticipated and reported automatically to VMControl, which can then take appropriate, policy-driven action. In this scenario, the business impact of the hardware failure is zero.)
VMControl can effectively make planned outages a thing of the past as well, because services need not be taken offline for systems to be updated. They can simply be shifted temporarily to another logical location while updates are applied to the original systems and subsequently shifted back. Users and customers need never know, or care, that an update took place at all. Overall service availability and resilience of the data center climbs as a result, and with it user productivity (for internal services) and customer satisfaction and revenues (for external services).
Gradually develop a cloud over time
System pools can also be seen as a logical stage (or building block) in the development of a full cloud computing environment. A cloud represents an even higher level of abstraction in which multiple system pools combine to flexibly and scalably deliver all the necessary resources for optimization across as many business contexts, systems, services and applications as needed, and yet the cloud itself is managed as an integrated, holistic entity.
Not all organizations are prepared to transition to the cloud computing today, though. For those seeking a more gradual migration, at a pace that matches their requirements going forward, IBM Systems Director VMControl Enterprise Edition can make that possible—delivering substantial business wins today and laying the foundation for more tomorrow.